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A New Life, A New Sun
“Xenagos was the first, and he shall be the last,” Heliod, God of the Sun, declared, impaling the dark-haired woman with her own spear. “No champion should eclipse their god.” Godsend shattered in a brilliant shower of golden sparkles, leaving the wound it made to bleed out all over the woman’s silver breastplate. The only thing remaining of the holy blade were the two gems that it once held.
As she stood there, speechless and betrayed, she noted the lack of powerful emotions flooding her mind. Rage was strangely missing, but in the back of her mind she knew that this was a likely outcome of her actions. Stars and nebulae blurred into an indistinguishable canvas of bleeding colors, while every sound around her quieted to nothing more than muffled background noise. Somewhere behind her, she was aware of her friend and ally, Ajani, calling out for her.
Gently, the god pushed his dying warrior over into the shocked Leonin’s white arms. “Quickly, leave Nyx. Return to the mortal realm of Theros, for if she loses her life here, her essence is forfeit. Let Erebos claim her; it is what she wished for.” Golden eyes peered down on the feline fighter with the intensity of the sun, threatening to burn him to cinder should he defy Heliod. Ajania wanted to roar, to strike the god down as heartlessly as he had his friend, but he knew the woman’s time was short. Sneering at Heliod, Ajani and his precious cargo vanished from the god’s sight.
The two arrived at the Temple of the Gods in a wisp of aethereal energy. Suddenly, the towering white columns, pristine altars, and inviting stairs had lost all of their appeal to the feline. Carrying her inside, he carefully laid her down near one of the altars and rested his twin-blade axe on a column.Though Ajani shed no tears, any fighter could see the turmoil playing across his face as he prepared to say his final words to his friend. He grasped her hand tightly, feeling her grip weakening.
Alas, their moment was not to last. As if the drop in temperature wasn't enough to reveal the interlopers, Ajani turned to confirm his suspicions. His ears flicked in time with each hollow footstep of his new foes. The Eidolon, mist-like beings born from the souls of those who’d remembered their time in the Theros’s underworld, stalked ever closer to the cat warrior. The only reason for their presence here was Elspeth, which meant that Erebos had sent them here to claim the planeswalker for his own. That was something he would not allow.
Luckily, the dark, ghostly figured hadn’t seen them yet. Ajani clenched the handle of his weapon and prepared to take advantage of his unknown status to take them out. Tensing his legs for the pounce, he hoped to feel the familiar rush of adrenaline coursing through his battle-worn body, but instead all he received was a rough touch on his shoulder.
Whipping around, Ajani leveled his axe at the one who had chosen to blindside him. “Brimaz...” he said breathlessly, fatigue entering his voice as his body came down from its building adrenaline rush. The beige-furred king stood there, his blue and gold robes swaying lightly, lifted by a weak draft.
“We knew that you’d return here when your business with the gods was concluded. This is what the human wanted, Ajani. You cannot hope to fight off Erebos’s spectres in your state and we--” Brimaz gestured to the other Leonin who’d accompanied him, “-- do not have your magics to deal with them. You didn’t even notice our presence. You’d be dead in an instant.”
Brimaz could see Ajani’s lips furrow in protest. However, having seen their closeness first hand, he knew that his Leonin brother wouldn’t agree with the decision to leave her behind. But he didn’t need to agree.
Before Ajani could form a word or even retaliate, one of the king’s cat warriors fell upon him, knocking him to the floor with a swift blow to the back of the head. With the last of his strength he reached out towards his friend’s still form, her mouth working in silent prayer. He felt Brimaz whisk him up, spiriting him away from the temple as darkness overtook him.
Eidolons surrounded her body as she prayed to Heliod, once more, hoping to finally find peace. The god had betrayed her, but she understood. Fear, not malice, drove the sun to do what he did. He was still a good god to the people of Theros, and, up until recently, had given her a place to belong. In Elspeth’s mind, it made sense to ask him one final time for that which she yearned to have. As her life ebbed away and the spirits’ wispy hands touched her body, she also prayed for Daxos and that he would find happiness with his new life.
Erebos sat on the throne of the Underworld running his clawed fingers over the woman's deathmask. The little thing was fashioned in a manner that it would look reminiscent of her face while using the two gems from Godsend as eyes. She’d gotten what she wanted, he’d gotten what he wanted, and Heliod had gotten what he wanted. And that’s the part that irked him to no end. Despite his outward demeanor, his brother banishing him to this plane still brought with it waves of vengeful thoughts. Erebos knew why the sun god wanted her dead, and it wasn’t his place to interfere. Besides, she had promised her soul to him.
He still didn’t like it, though. Once again, his brother had come out on top. Heliod was still the chief god; Xenagos’s ascension and subsequent fall hadn’t shifted the status quo at all like he wanted it to. He stopped fumbling with the artifact in his hands and stared down at it intently. He could change it, though. Helios killed her in an attempt to trap her soul in the underworld where she wouldn’t be a threat to the pantheon.
The mortal had managed to defeat the satyr god and restore balance to Theros. A mere mortal, but she was of the same make as Xenagos, a planeswalker. Helios didn’t want another upstart god trying to claim power. A smirk spread across the death god’s face. With a turn of his palm and a flick of his starry robes, he had her soul in the palm of his hands.
He could feel it, what brother was afraid of. The potential was there. She was close as well. She’d never reach her destiny locked away here, though. Reaching into her power, he mentally grasped at the treads that allowed her to walk the multiverse freely, pulling on his power as if it were his own; he’d never be able to use the spark for himself, but he didn’t need to.
For a moment, Erebos wondered what he was doing. Was he showing pity on the mortal? No, he simply did this to spite Heliod. Mortals were predictable; she would recover, train, strengthen, then return. He was just keeping the constant power play on Theros going. She would be his ace in the hole when the time came. Tugging powerfully, he jump-started her planeswalking ability and infused a sliver of his necromantic powers into her soul, just enough to give her what she’d need. As her soul slipped away, Erebos glimpsed infinity. The worlds she’d seen, the battles she’d waged. Perhaps getting her off of Theros was for the best? “Go now, claim new life and purpose,” the god muttered to himself, watching the last wisps of her soul depart for the space between worlds.
Her deathmask crumbled, reducing itself to dust while the twin eye orbs both dematerialized, following the soul. At that, Erebos’s raised an eyebrow. It seemed that Theros refused to leave the woman alone.
Today was like any other day on Sweet Apple Acres; hard work and profit! A gentle breeze filtered through the branches of the expansive orchard, bringing with it the scent of perfectly ripe apples and crystal clear waters. Glossy red fruit drew the eyes just as much as the perfectly maintained barns and the large home situated in the middle of the land. Celestia’s sun hung high over the farm, basking the trees in warm life-giving rays while at the same time nearly killing anypony unlucky enough to be caught outside. At least, according to Apple Bloom, it was.
Tiny hooves slammed into one of the many tree trunks under their care, knocking apples into the baskets beneath their branches. Apple Bloom brushed a foreleg across her face. She was baking under the noon sun, but they were almost done for today. Having just filled three more bushels, all she needed was three more, and then the filly could call it a day and hang out with her friends. “That’s three more down, Mac!” she called out with a southern twang.
Crouching down, she took advantage of her earth pony strength and hefted the apples onto her back. “I’m going to start taking these back and bringing out new baskets. Is that alright?”
“Eeyup!” Came her brother’s powerful, signature reply. “Careful though, I heard a crash earlier, sounded like something in the barn fell over.”
“Yes siree!” She snapped a silly little salute in the direction of her older brother’s voice and went about her business.
Trekking back to the barn with what the filly figured was her body weight in apples was arduous, at least it would have been to somepony who wasn’t an Apple. Apple Bloom however, marched on without a care in the world as if nothing were holding her down. It was a short trot, from the line of trees back to the barn she needed to deposit her harvest in. If she didn’t live on the farm, she would have forgotten the looming, bright red, wooden structure was even here, seeing as it was such a new addition to their facilities. The voices of her kinfolk bounced around inside her head, echoing the song they sang while putting it together.
Opening the door, Apple Bloom took a cautious step inside. She winced from the jaw-grinding squeal of metal on metal from the crap hinge they had bought from the town blacksmith. “Why won’t anypony handle that?”
She hadn’t even made it fully inside the structure before her sixth sense started firing off like a gatling gun. Something was wrong with the barn. Her eyes darted around the room, picking up on every little detail they scanned over. The hay was disturbed. Many of the bales were completely overturned or burst apart, leaving the dry plant strewn about like a tornado had blown through the barn. It was bright, much too bright to a roofed building with so few windows to let in light.
Apple Bloom’s eyes landed on a particularly thick beam of light and slowly traveled upwards, her leg twitching every time a broken strut or a shattered piece of timber passed through her sight line. Eventually her gaze stopped on the roof, where it could go no further. Normally that would be the case, but normally there wasn't a gaping hole in the roof.
“Horsefeathers!” Apple Bloom shouted, just knowing that Applejack would somehow blame this on her.
Shuffling in the pile of hay underneath the damage pulled her mind out of its imaginary land of strange, outlandish punishments. Dropping to her belly, she let the her load slide to the ground and gingerly entered the barn proper. “H-hello? Is there anypony in here?” For a moment, the entire world went silent. No wind, no bird calls, nothing. Everything waited for an answer.
Another shuffle, followed by a pained moan answered the filly. “B-Big Mac!” Apple Bloom shouted at the top of her lungs, backpedaling out as fast as her little legs could carry her.
It didn’t take long for the burly pony to respond to her cries. The second he arrived on the scene, Apple Bloom took a place behind his one of his thick back legs. “What’s the matter?”
“Somep-pony. In the hay.”
Big Mac snorted at the idea of some bum sneaking a good night’s sleep in their barn and being foolish enough not to hightail it at the crack of dawn. While he had no plans for violence, he did plan on making whomever was over their pay for the hospitality they’d been given. Ignoring the disarray around him, he readied himself for anything and trotted over to where the trespasser was supposed to be.
What he found wasn't quite what he expected. Covered from the neck down by an elegant, white hooded cloak was an equally as white pegasus mare with a dark chocolate colored mane. He reached out to try and wake the mare with a gentle touch on the shoulder, but his hoof met with an unyielding barrier and the familiar clang of metal. That little touch was all it took to cause the mare’s eyelids to snap open.
Light brown met green as both ponies peered into each others eyes. Grunting, she rolled over, revealing her silver and gold armor along with the large bloodstained gash across her chestpiece.
“Apple Bloom.” His voice was soft, yet stern, offering no room for questioning. “Go and find Applejack. Tell her to get Miss Fluttershy over here.” When the sound of hooves beating against soil failed to reach his ears Big Mac whipped his head around and gave Apple Bloom a look that could blast the top off of a mountain. “Now!” he said louder, startling his sister into action.
When he turned this attention back to injured mare, she was trying to sit up. “Whoa, hold up now.” He nearly shouted in surprise. Rushing to her side and placing a hoof on her shoulder, he gently but firmly pushed her back down into a resting position. “You’re hurt, so you need to stay still.”
She simply looked up at him, confused and disorientated, chest heaving in panic. She tried to fight his touch despite her bodies refusal to cooperate, her attempts at thrashing coming off more like a dog’s squirm than anything. Big Mac flashed her a disarming smile. “It’s ok… I’m not going to hurt you, miss. You got a name?”
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she ceased her struggles and let her body fall into rest. Her breathing slowed, terror being replaced by fatigue. He’d ask her for something. A name. She could at least give that before the unconsciousness came over her.